A Nutritious Medical Education

Culinary Medicine Course Selected for 2024 Frymoyer Scholars Program
Four people standing around a buffet of food and reaching for healthy food items

A course developed by students in the Larner College of Medicine (LCOM) to teach fellow students about nutritional interventions for chronic disease was the sole project selected to receive 2024 Frymoyer Scholars funding. The project, titled “A Multimodal...

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A person in a neon yellow reflective vest and a hat kneels on the ground in a garden bed, surrounded by plants

No Small Task: Dedicated Grounds Team Maintains Campus Through All Seasons

On a recent Friday morning, plants lay scattered atop mulch in a flowerbed between UVM’s Old Mill and Williams Hall. The sun shone, but this flowerbed sits in the shade of surrounding trees. No worries, said Senior Grounds Maintenance Specialist Nate Walker.

“It’s a perfect bed, and I don’t like when a bed is empty,” Walker said. “So we’re trying to make it look nice.” He’d already tried last spring, he said, but except for a ring of determined coral bells making a go of it around the bed’s edge, none of the plants reappeared this spring. So Walker returned, more plants in tow. Suspecting the missing plants weren’t satisfied with the shaded location, he said, “I’m putting in some shade-loving plants. Hostas, bleeding hearts, Japanese painted fern.”

Beyond an aesthetic exercise, Walker’s project was a rescue-mission-slash-recycling-effort. The bleeding hearts came from Living and Learning, where a construction project was about to overtake their home.

“I’m saving those,” Walker said, “hoping that they’re happy here. Same with these hostas; they just came out over near our shop near Centennial Field.”

a person in a yellow reflective vest uses a shovel to dig a hole in a flowerbed

An adjacent flowerbed, already full of thriving hostas, suggests the new plants will like the location. Eyeing this bed, Walker observed, “I know that there’s a big family of chipmunks living there; they were yelling at me before.” A few minutes later, one of the chipmunks appeared at the corner of the bed, surveying the evolving garden situation before disappearing into the leaves.

Walker, who has worked at UVM for about six years, noted the outdoor role “suits me a lot.” Although he’s done other jobs over his career, he said, he returns to groundskeeping.

“Our job always changes throughout the seasons. Spring comes around and we’re mulching beds, doing cleanup. Summertime rolls around and there’s a lot of maintenance; today I’m planting a garden, but of course there’s grass growing, tree pruning, all kinds of stuff.” The arrival of fall ushers in leaf pickup, and with winter’s snow and ice come plowing and clearing the campus—no small task for a team of 15 full-time and one part-time year-round staff members and a few seasonal student employees.

“It’s a massive campus; there’s always something to do,” Walker said. “It’s actually one of my favorite things about the job: the way it changes throughout the seasons. You never can get stuck in a rut. If you get sick of one type of work, just wait a little bit; you’re going to be doing something else.”

a person in a neon yellow reflective vest kneels in a garden with brown mulch and green plants

Walker also takes pride in his work’s value to the community, he said. “There was a moment last week where I pulled up to one of these flowerbeds to water some flowers, and it turns outs that all in the bushes was this preschool class, just playing around, having fun, and they were fascinated by me: ‘What are you doing?’ I love that type of thing. It makes me feel good knowing that I am helping to make this an accessible and inviting and beautiful place, for not just the college students, but the entire community.” The campus, he adds, “is very central to town… that gives me a sense of pride.”

pink bleeding heart flowers in the foreground, with a person working in a flowerbed in the background, out of focus

And he appreciates the benefits of working here, where he has taken classes including a death doula course and one focused on sustainability. His daughter will be headed to college in a few years, he adds, “and the tuition remission benefit of working here is excellent.”

pink bleeding heart flowers in the foreground with a building in the background, out of focus

“I very much love coming into work with a goal, and working to accomplish it,” Walker said. “I love seeing the final product of everything looking good.” To that end, Walker expected to spend another hour or two getting the plants situated in their new home, pondering, “I might come in and put a fresh layer of mulch on just to tidy it up.”

After pressing dirt and mulch around the base of a plant, Walker rose to his feet, brushing dirt from his hands as he said, “Alright, hopefully you’re happy there, bleeding heart.” Once Walker was satisfied with the garden’s appearance, it was off to plant trees. Give it a few months and he’ll be back to clean up their leaves. In the meantime, the summer days fly by for Walker, who says he enthusiastically raked leaves and shoveled snow as a child, much to his father’s puzzlement.

“Maybe,” he mused, “I was a born groundskeeper.”

a rectangular flowerbed with brown mulch and green plants

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A person in a blue tee-shirt kneels in a field with green leaves surrounding

Modern Seeds Aren’t Ready For Climate Change

Humans have radically altered the evolution of agricultural plants since World War Two, remaking our seed system with industrial agricultural practices to feed a growing population. Yet in the changing climate of decades to come, UVM researchers say, the seeds that will feed the world are in the hands of smallholder farmers.

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